NEW ORLEANS — Cameron Parish officials thought they had their tax problems figured out.
They were going to institute a PILOT plan, which means Cameron LNG would make a lump sum payment up front instead of paying its property taxes over a 20-year span. PILOT stands for "payment in lieu of taxes."
Among those agencies in favor of the PILOT plan were the Cameron Parish sheriff’s office, school board and police.
There was a problem, though. A district judge and an appeals court ruled against the plan.
Then the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to hear the case as it denied the writ application of the Cameron Parish PILOT tax plan in May.
The parish tax assessor was against the PILOT plan, and so were a series of taxpayers who claimed the parish would lose more than $1 billion in revenue and would not be fair in the long term.
In January, a state district judge agreed with attorney Brian Eddington, who represented the tax assessor.
"The entire taxing policy of the state—indeed, the country—is premised on the fact that all similarly situated taxpayers are going to be taxed on the same basis," Eddington told KPLC 7. "And doing this special tax deal for one taxpayer is not just wrong, it's but indeed unconstitutional."
Then in February, the case moved to the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals and a three-judge panel upheld the district judge’s ruling.
"Every other taxpayer in Cameron Parish and every other parish in Louisiana pays taxes based upon the value of its property," Eddington told KPLC 7. "This one taxpayer, Cameron LNG, would have what they refer to as a payment in lieu of taxes, a negotiated payment, that by all indications would have been substantially less than the amount that would have been owed in taxes over time.".
According to KPLC 7, parish administrator Ryan Bourriaque is hopeful that there are bills in the legislative session that will better define a PILOT agreement, and he also said the regular payments over time and the PILOT payment are not as disproportionate as what was originally thought.